RIAT departure day delights
Welcome to this latest edition of Aerodrome and our regular look at the fascinating world of aviation and the historic aviation scene in the UK. The previous two editions of our blog have featured interesting if rather distressing developments in the history of British aviation, as we have marked both the potential final flight of Gloster Meteor NF.11 WM167 and the RAF retirement of the Panavia Tornado GR.4. Add to this the fact that the inclement weather is also doing its best to remind us that the Airshow season is still many weeks away, this latest edition of Aerodrome will be attempting to blow away these aviation blues, celebrating the start of astronomical spring by featuring lots of aeroplanes, all of which were in attendance at one of the world’s most impressive aviation events. Also, with a punishing blog schedule and a working weekend ahead of us, we will also be trying something a little different with the blog format this time around and intend to be more about images and less about descriptive text. Our hope is that this latest edition will encourage everyone to prepare their camera gear and make final arrangements to their Airshow attendance plans for the year, as our enforced winter hiatus is almost over and we can all begin to look forward to skies full of fantastic aeroplanes! Ok, this may be a little over enthusiastic, but we are now only 6 weeks away from the first Airshows of the year and if we can’t get a little excited about that, there is something very wrong. For these reasons, our intention is to bring you something of an aviation fix and if its large numbers of aeroplanes you require, there is nothing to rival the aviation scale and variety offered by the annual Royal International Tattoo. Our destination for the latest edition of Aerodrome is RAF Fairford, in the beautiful county of Gloucestershire and a date with some departing aeroplanes.
Aircraft variety is the spice of life
RIAT can always be relied upon to attract some of the most interesting aviation acts in the world and when the mighty Sukhoi Su-27P1M takes to the air, you know everyone will be watching
As far as thousands of aviation enthusiasts are concerned, if they were only allowed to attend one Airshow each year, that event would undoubtedly be the Royal International Air Tattoo, the largest military Airshow in the world and one which attracts visitors from every corner of the globe. For one week every July, the Gloucestershire village of Fairford quite literally becomes the centre of the aviation world, as its famous airfield stages an event of such magnitude that it must contribute millions of pounds into the area’s economy each year and has ensured that this usually sleepy corner of rural Britain has become familiar to millions of people. Any show which can boast an unrivalled static aircraft display and a flying programme which regularly exceeds its published 8 hours of thrilling entertainment, will always attract plenty of public support, however, RIAT is much more than just a large Airshow. With many people spending an entire week of aviation indulgence either on or around the airfield, this show is more like an aviation rite of passage for enthusiasts, some of whom actually take this week as their annual holiday, arranging next year’s attendance whilst still enjoying the current years offering. This show is also a truly international event, not only from the perspective of the exotic aeroplanes it manages to attract, many of which will be making their only UK appearance of the year at RIAT, but also by the impressive number of overseas visitors who support each show. It is not uncommon to find that you are sharing your section of the crowd-line with enthusiasts from America, Japan or Brazil, everyone united by a common love of all things aviation. With so many things to see and do, and huge crowds guaranteed to be on the airfield during each day of the show, many people feel like they need to take a holiday after attending a RIAT Airshow, as the unrelenting strain of all this aviation enjoyment really can begin to take its toll.
The RIAT phenomenon arrived at RAF Fairford in 1985, when this massive event was hosted by the airfield for the first time, originally taking place every two years, but from 1993 held annually. Its record of hosting the event since that date has only been broken on two consecutive show occasions, when RAF Cottesmore stepped into the breach for two RIAT shows from 2000, as the airfield infrastructure at Fairford was undergoing extensive renovation works, however, everything was back to normal by 2002. Indeed, the return to Fairford proved to be something of a record breaking development, as the 2003 show attracted no fewer than 535 aircraft and earned the Royal International Air Tattoo the accolade of being the largest military Airshow in the world. Although unable to match this incredible number, the 2018 show was nevertheless a huge occasion in its own right, with 302 aircraft packed onto the airfield, representing 43 air arms from 30 countries around the world and the small matter of the centenary of the Royal Air Force to commemorate. As usual, this was undoubtedly the aviation event of the year and the crowds turned up in their thousands once again.
Gathering an impressive selection of aircraft from locations all around the world, to be in the same place at the same time, is clearly always going to be of great interest to aviation enthusiasts, but creates something of a logistic nightmare for the team behind such an undertaking. Having to contend with accepted aviation variables such as aircraft serviceability, operational commitments, aircrew availability, the prevailing world political situation and the weather, if the majority of the aircraft scheduled to be in attendance actually arrive at the airfield, this has to be celebrated as a significant achievement. Unfortunately for them, this is no time for resting on their laurels, as no sooner have aircraft arrived at Fairford and helped to make the latest show a roaring success, arrangements have to be made to get them all away again. Departure Monday is an extremely busy day for the RIAT team, as most of the aircraft taking part in the latest flying and static displays will have to leave the airfield, dictating that from around 10am in the morning, aircraft movements are taking place every few minutes and Fairford becomes one of the busiest airfields in Europe – of huge appeal to the enthusiast, all this activity involves some of the world’s most famous military aircraft.
Despite the fact that thousands of aviation fanatics had already spent four enjoyable days indulging their passion for aviation action, departure day is something a little bit special in the annual Airshow calendar and ensures that a great many of them arrange to take a day off work and once again take up position overlooking the runway at Fairford. With access granted at either end of the airfield and Friends of the Royal International Air Tattoo members able to retain their crowd centre grandstand enclosure position, this ensures that departing aircrew have a knowledgeable and appreciative audience to cheer them on their way each year, or perhaps more accurately, admire their aircraft through the viewfinder of their cameras. With the final aircraft movements of the day taking place at around 4pm, many enthusiasts will stay right to the bitter end, desperate to try and cling on to their latest RIAT experience, safe in the knowledge that they will soon be invited to leave the airfield and begin their long vigil until they can do this all again next year. In truth, RIAT departure day is more appealing than most Airshows and can definitely boast more aircraft participation than if several other events combined their entire display programmes together. This unique set of logistic aviation circumstances has resulted in the Monday departure day at the Royal International Air Tattoo taking on almost legendary status amongst aviation enthusiasts, with those lucky enough to attend knowing they are present at one of the highlight events in the annual Airshow calendar. For those unable to extend their stay for whatever reason, they are certain to suffer from a serious case of the Monday blues on this very special day.
RIAT 2018 Departures
In a break with our regular blog format, we will now feature a selection of images taken at last year’s RIAT departure day, keeping descriptions to a minimum and bringing you non-stop aeroplane take-off action. Please let us know what you think of this format and if you have ever attended one of these fantastic departure days yourself, please do send us a selection of your favourite images – as usual, all our contact details will be displayed at the end of this blog.
One of the first departures to leave Fairford last year was this beautifully presented Royal Jordanian Air Force C-130H Hercules, which had a long journey ahead of it
Less well turned out, but still of huge interest to the enthusiast, this German Air Force Transall C-160D is becoming less common at UK Airshows these days
A little bit of culture to the proceedings next, in the shape of this beautiful Hunting Percival Jet Provost T3A, of the Newcastle Jet Provost Group
Now fast becoming a classic in its own right, this smart looking Hawk T.1 wears the colours of No.100 Squadron RAF
A slightly more famous scheme for the Hawk trainer, the 2019 RIAT appearance of the Red Arrows will be their last, before they head out on a high profile tour of North America
RIAT will usually attract several of the world’s most popular aerobatic demonstration teams and 2018 could boast performances by Italy’s Frecce Tricolori
One of the aircraft of the Spanish Patrulla Aguila was sporting some particularly attractive tail artwork
Gallic Flair – This is what the FRIAT members hope for every year, a take-off salute by one of the pilots as he departs the airfield. Typical flamboyance from Couteau Delta
More special tails, this time on an F-16AM Fighting Falcon of the Royal Norwegian Air Force
Another workmanlike looking fighter, this CF-188 Hornet of the Royal Canadian Air Force would usually be a star attraction at a RIAT show, but not this year
And this is why! The Canadian Air Force brought this beautifully presented aircraft to help celebrate the RAFs 100th birthday
This is what we want. In the old days, many aircraft departing on Monday would perform exciting top surface take-offs, but pilots are now advised to avoid non standard departures. Thankfully, there are the odd exceptions
As Fairford is regularly used as an advanced operating base for the US Air Force, enthusiasts are always hopeful that the show will boast strong US participation
Although the F-15 Eagle has been in service for many years now, it is still a popular addition to any flying programme. Recently, our best chance to see one close up is when the static display aircraft return to Lakenheath following the end of the show
The cutting edge Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II is destined to become a regular performer at future RIAT shows
Although the Typhoon is familiar to many enthusiasts, it is always nice to see aircraft in the colours of overseas air arms at a RIAT show, in this case representing the Italian Air Force
This Italian Air Force Leonardo T-346A is a really attractive little jet and a popular with the UK enthusiast whenever it appears
Farewell RAF Tornado. RIAT 2018 was the last time enthusiasts will have seen this much loved strike jet getting airborne from Fairford’s runway
Always extremely popular aircraft, these magnificent German Tornados will surely become crowd favourites at future shows, following the retirement of the British machines
German style – gone for 2018, but hopefully back next year
Proudly displaying its support for RAF 100, this BAe 146 CC2 flies with RAF No.32 (The Royal) Squadron and is on its way back to Northolt
A Classic RAF 100 tribute. This beautiful Vampire T.11 of the Norwegian Air Force Historical Squadron was wearing RAF No.4 Squadron markings in honour of this significant anniversary
One of the best looking aircraft at RIAT 2018 was this stunning Kawasaki C-2 of the Japan Air Self-Defence Force was one of the aircraft making the longest journey to take part in the show
More exotic air power, this Boeing E-7A Wedgetail is one of the newest aircraft to join the inventory of the Royal Australian Air Force
Stars of the show – RIAT loves to boast the attendance of Russian designed aircraft and over the past few years, the Sukhoi fighters of the Ukrainian Air Force have become firm favourites
Giving us one final look, this pair of Ukrainian Su-27s performed an unexpected formation flypast moments after taking off from Fairford’s runway
This mighty Luftwaffe Airbus A400M was one of the largest aircraft to depart Fairford on the day, but showed real agility for an aircraft of this size
I am afraid that is all we have for you in this latest edition of Aerodrome, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with more aviation related content for your enjoyment. As always, if you have any ideas for a future edition of Aerodrome, or if you would like to supply a feature of your own which will be of interest to our worldwide aviation readership, please send your suggestions to our regular contact e-mail address at email@example.com, where we will be delighted to hear from you.
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The next edition of Aerodrome is due to be published on Friday 5th April, when we look forward to seeing you all back here for more aviation indulgence.
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